Question: I have always bought new houses but this time I am buying a ten year old house. There are many things wrong with the house and the seller is not willing to fix them. That is aggravating as I will have to fix them after I move in. If they know there are issues shouldn’t they have to fix those issues?
Answer: That is a major difference between buying a new home from the builder and buying an older home from a seller. The new home gives you a period of time to discover problems or issues with the new home and the builder will fix those items. That is one reason some people prefer to buy a new home. There is some protection with the new home. At the same time, the new home tends to cost more to purchase and you have to do additional work such as landscaping and window coverings after you purchase. When you buy a used home you are buying a home that is “as is” and the seller is only obligated to have working smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors on each floor (unless the home is all-electric), and to have the water heater properly strapped. After those items everything else is just a Request for Repair and the seller is not obligated to fix or replace anything. Generally, however, the seller does agree to fix some of the items on your list that pertain to safety, or leaks, or deal breaking types of items. If the heater does not work, then that is likely an item that should be fixed or the buyer will move on to another property. The same may be said if there is a problem with the air-conditioner, roof, or other major items that would mean a large expenditure by the buyer. Repair requests can be a point of contention between the buyer and the seller. We often hear, “They are not buying a new house!” Or, “They can’t expect me to repair everything; if they want that they should buy a new house!” On the other hand, there are issues that would cause a buyer to walk away; therefore the seller should do the repair. There are three points of negotiation in a real estate transaction: the initial contract price, the request for repair, and, sometimes the negotiation around the appraisal if it does not come in at the purchase price. Every home has issues that a property inspector will find during their inspection. Some of those issues are just cosmetic such as small cracks in the stucco outside or on the drywall inside, a stain in the carpet, a chip on the tile on the floor or the counter. The buyer should not expect the seller to have to fix those items. They were obvious when the buyer agreed to the price and they do not impact the safety of the home. It is always best to keep your emotions in check during this process and be realistic about the items that are requested or that you request if you are the buyer. Listen to the experience of your real estate agent as you prepare your list or your response to the buyer’s list. Just a note to those of you who are putting your house on the market, fix those items that are obvious as you walk around, service the heater and air-conditioner, have the roof checked, fix any leaks that may exist before you put the home on the market. Your sale will be much smoother and you will get a happy buyer and a good transaction.
Question: I had a water leak about four years ago in my home that caused quite a bit of damage but the insurance company fixed it all and there are no problems now. Do I have to let the buyer know that when I sell my home?
Answer: Yes, and if you were the buyer you would want to know the history of the home as well. When you do your disclosure paperwork, you will have at least a couple of places where you will acknowledge there had been a water leak. You will be asked if there had been an insurance claim on the property and you will answer “yes.” This information can be discovered anyway by an insurance agent looking at the “CLUE” report that will tell them if there had been any claims against the property. Then you will be asked if there had been any water issues with the property and what those issues were. If you said nothing about the water issues and they were later discovered and there was still a problem, such as mold discovered in a wall, you could be held liable for damages due to a lack of disclosure. Maybe you fixed the problem yourself and did not file a claim so you feel it is not necessary to disclose that fact. You still need to disclose to the buyer what happened and what was repaired and when. You need to protect yourself by giving the buyer this information. The buyer will share this information with the home inspector so that they can investigate the area that was repaired to see if there are any current issues. Of course inspectors are only responsible for what they can see and if there are issues behind the walls that would not be revealed. The disclosure paperwork asks several questions regarding your property and any repairs made or items not working and full disclosure is always your best approach. You will be asked if you painted anything in the last twelve months. Why? Most of the time you painted so your property would show well to the prospective buyers but in some cases a person painted to cover over an issue, such as a water stain on the ceiling caused by a roof leak. If that was not disclosed then you would not look for a roof leak repair or existing roof leak. Full disclosure of the condition of the home protects both the seller and the buyer. Your agent will help you understand this process but he/she can’t tell you what to disclose or not disclose as that is your responsibility. The disclosure process must be taken very seriously for your own protection.